Everyone knows that New York is a cultural center, but sometimes I feel like no one knows why. There are symphonies, musicals, operas, and movies in every city. What makes New York special?
One difference is the art film scene. Searching for movie showtimes here can be a challenge; mainstream movies are mixed in with an endless list of premieres, indie films, art house revivals, film festivals, and more.
Another difference is the density of famous entertainers. A friend of mine went to an anonymous comedy show at 11 PM on a Monday night … and saw Aziz Ansari and Sarah Silverman. That doesn’t happen in Seattle.
Today, I got to see those two phenomena come together, in a showing of The Parallax View at The Film Forum hosted by Larry Wilmore (and meta-hosted by Wayne Federman). As Wayne explained, he was organizing a miniature film festival where he picks comedians, and they in turn pick the films. Wilmore chose this one.
The theater was narrow and the screen small. Federman boasted that the print, borrowed from the University of Chicago film archive, was in IB Technicolor, which is almost immune to fade over time … important for filmstock from the original run in 1974. He was right: the colors were bright. The audio crackled, dust danced on the screen, and cigarette burns were more frequent than I’ve ever seen, and sometimes in odd places. It was annoying for about 30 seconds, and then it just didn’t matter.
There’s no better way to see a movie, I think, than with a packed audience of film buffs. Riding that wave of enthusiasm, it felt like a perfect Hollywood answer to A Clockwork Orange, or maybe a darker, funnier, and ultimately more compelling version of James Bond. It certainly seemed more brutally honest than Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson.
When the lights came on, Wilmore walked to the front to take questions. It was immediately clear that Wilmore’s usual lowbrow comedy is not his whole story: he used the phrase “filmic verisimilitude” within the first 15 seconds.
I asked Wilmore whether he saw a connection to Bulworth, another movie in which Warren Beatty plays someone who is trying to stop a political assassination. He felt there was little in common: Bulworth is really about politics; Parallax is really about our paranoid inner life.